Anthropologists tell us that we are born congenitally dis-eased, incurably erotic, restless, consumed by a thirst that cannot be quenched and a fire that will not be stilled.
ADVENT: CURING FIRE BY FIRE
To be human is to be on fire for a consummation, a love, a restfulness, an embrace, and a symphony that, in this life, forever escapes us. In every cell of our bodies and in the very DNA of our souls we ache for someone or something that we have not yet known, ache in a way that leaves us too dissatisfied and restless to live fully inside our own skins. Our lives always seem too small for us. Moreover, and this is the key, this is God’s doing. God is the hand behind this “intolerable shirt of flame”.
Hence the fire inside us is not necessarily a sign that we are doing anything wrong, that we have missed the boat somewhere, are sinful, are over-sexed, or are too greedy for our own good. The fire inside us comes from the way God made us, namely, to crave the infinite and to be dissatisfied with everything else until that wide embrace is consummated. Thus, the fire inside us will never be extinguished simply by attaining the right partner, the right job, the right city, the right set of friends, and the right recognition. We will always be on fire.
But there is a choice, between two kinds of fire, two kinds of restlessness, two kinds of inner thirsts. With what kind of fire do we want our hearts to burn? We are destined to be consumed by one kind of restlessness or another, but the flames are very different. Do we want God’s flames or those of our own choosing?
For John of the Cross, the desire for higher lovemaking was the spirit that burned inside of Jesus, the energy that motivated him and consumed, as by fire, the more limited desires within him.
Jesus was insane for the light, on fire with God’s eros, willing to die to be transformed and so offer the world the widest love of all, God’s embrace. In Jesus, we see what it means to be redeemed from fire by fire.
Advent celebrates human longing. It asks us not to deny our longings but to enter them, deepen them, and widen them until we become insane for the light.
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